Colorado deciding open race for governor, edge in US House

James Anderson
Associated Press
With stylized mural of the city above them, voters cast their ballots at the Denver Elections Division Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

DENVER — The Colorado governor’s race between Democratic U.S. Rep. Jared Polis and Republican treasurer Walker Stapleton tops a Tuesday ballot whose results could change the GOP-leaning makeup of the state’s U.S. House delegation.

Colorado residents voted in seven congressional races, including a tight contest pitting five-term Republican Rep. Mike Coffman against first-time Democratic candidate Jason Crow, who mounted a well-funded challenge in a suburban Denver district. It could determine a shift in Colorado Republicans’ 4-3 edge in the U.S. House.

Voters also weighed in on ballot issues ranging from where fracking can occur to multibillion-dollar plans to fund roads and public schools.

The vote for governor was a referendum on health care, Colorado’s limits on taxes, its energy future, its ability to address congested roadways, high housing costs and underfunded schools — plus President Donald Trump.

Carly Everett, 24, an independent voter from Littleton, cited Trump’s antipathy toward immigrants and racial rhetoric as the reason she voted a mostly Democratic ticket Tuesday.

“It’s about Donald Trump, and a lot of bad things going on right now are about him,” Everett said after voting in Morrison. “I voted mostly Democrat to oppose the direction the country is headed.”

With Democrats leading Republicans in turnout, state Republican Party chairman Jeff Hays urged GOP members to “either close that gap or surrender our state to the most radical Democrats their party has ever nominated.”

Polis, who would be Colorado’s first openly gay governor if elected, invested a record $22 million and counting of his own wealth in his bid to succeed centrist Democrat John Hickenlooper, who is term-limited. Polis has represented Boulder, Fort Collins and north-central Colorado in Congress since 2009.

Stapleton emerged from a hotly contested Republican primary to vie for a seat that has eluded Republicans since Gov. Bill Owens left office in 2007.

Polis called for a universal health care system that could include neighboring states under former President Barack Obama’s health care law. He opposed bonding for roads, supported publicly funded pre-kindergarten and kindergarten and pledged a 100 percent renewable energy goal by 2040.

Stapleton embraced Trump’s tax cuts, moves to open federal lands to energy exploration and pledges to punish so-called sanctuary cities that limit cooperation with federal immigration authorities.

He insisted on a market-based health care system, supported bonding for roads and argued that trimming a bloated schools bureaucracy could deliver the funding that classrooms need. He warned that Polis, who has supported local control over fracking, would jeopardize Colorado’s booming oil and natural gas industry.

In congressional races, Coffman is fighting for political survival in a district that’s trended steadily leftward. Crow, a former Army Ranger, branded the Republican as an enabler of Trump and attacked him on health care and gun violence in a district that saw the 2012 movie theater shooting that killed 12 people.

Democrat Joe Neguse faces Republican Peter Yu to succeed Polis, while incumbent Democrats Diana DeGette and Ed Perlmutter and Republicans Scott Tipton, Ken Buck and Doug Lamborn were expected to win.

The top statewide ballot issue asked voters to severely limit hydraulic fracturing of oil and natural gas, citing health concerns.

Bruce Holamon, 53, of Greeley, said he had his neighbors in mind when he voted against it.

“I’d guess a quarter of our neighborhood works in the industry, and it was a big concern for them,” he said. “The way Colorado handles things now is working fine.”

Holamon said he happily backed Stapleton for governor, fearing taxes would go up if Polis is elected.

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